By Lindsay Plante, BFA Communications Intern
All across Idaho, Cynthia Gibson and her fellow advocates at the Idaho Pedestrian and Bicycle Alliance (IPBA) are working tirelessly to transform their home into a Bicycle Friendly State (BFS). To them, it’s not the BFS title that counts. More important are the positive developments to get them there.
Gibson and her team view the BFS scoring process holistically, and devote efforts to each area of bicycle advocacy, from the statehouse to the streets. In 2012, Idaho was 36th in the Bicycle Friendly States ranking, with a weakness in infrastructure and funding, but a good foundation in education and encouragement to start moving up the ladder.
As Gibson explains, the lack of infrastructure and funding is understandable considering Idaho’s history and geography. Two of Idaho’s three Bicycle Friendly Communities are urban, while the third, Wood River Valley, has promoted bicycle tourism along its rural terrain. Rural towns dominate the state and their biking and walking needs are entirely different from the urban areas.
“They have a completely different set of problems and issues,” Gibson says. “Idaho has been agricultural for many generations. We are a conservative state. Biking just seems odd to many people. They are more comfortable with pick-up trucks or horses!”
Despite daunting challenges, though, IPBA isn’t backing down.
“Our current projects are to create a presentation to demonstrate how biking and walking help the Idaho economy,” she says. “We’re also beginning work to prepare for the 2013 legislative session. The 3-foot-passing bill was introduced last year but didn’t get onto the floor… We’ll decide if we want to introduce it again and, if so, what can we do better to get it further in the process. Both projects are going to be long-term, but that’s OK.”
Gibson and her team also understand the value of leading by example. By using the existing infrastructure for biking and walking they create demand for maintenance and further construction. When they ride, they represent the best of cycling — following the rules of the road and putting safety first.
The bicycle and pedestrian movement is growing and Gibson is working hard to encourage her fellow Idahoans to get involved. “We have built momentum but we need more,” she says. “Let’s show the lawmakers that Idahoans really want better biking and walking facilities and policies. They won’t know unless we tell them and show them!”
Read more about IPBA at http://www.idahopedbike.org.